The GM Meetings are over, the Winter Meetings are three weeks away, and the offseason is in that awkward adolescent phase. It’s too old to be considered cute, and at this point, it’s hard to get too excited about every little thing it does. At this point, we’re just waiting to see what kind of offseason it grows up to be. Did I take that analogy too far? Was it a bad idea from the very beginning? Let’s just move on to a few random thoughts…
• Speaking of awkward, the Derek Jeter situation could be heading that direction. Hal Steinbrenner gave him a $12-million deal to avoid an awkward negotiation, but that doesn’t mean an uncomfortable spring training is off the table. It’s true, you can’t count out a guy like Jeter — I think there’s honestly a chance that he shows up in February health and strong enough to play his brand of limited-but-mistake-free shortstop — but what if he can’t do it? The Yankees might have a backup plan in place, but at what point to the Yankees start teaching Jeter a new position? Can he spend the first three or four weeks trying to keep his shortstop job and still have enough time to become a viable third baseman or first baseman or right fielder or whatever it is? Is it shortstop or DH with no in between?
• Right now, Dave Robertson doesn’t know whether he’ll be the Yankees closer next season, and he’s surely gearing up to compete for the job. There are only two ways I can see that changing in the next three months: 1. If the Yankees don’t sign a single late-inning reliever, in which case the closer job is Robertson’s by default. 2. If the Yankees sign Joe Nathan, in which case Nathan is the automatic closer and Robertson is back to a setup role. I don’t think free agents like Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Fernando Rodney have enough of a track record to automatically get the job over Robertson without some sort of spring competition (on the surface, anyway), and I can’t see the Yankees giving up the necessary prospects to trade for a more-proven closer.
• I like Chris Stewart — more than most, it seems — but at this point, he seems like an overwhelming non-tender candidate. I still think Stewart is a perfectly good backup catcher, but there’s little sense in sending Austin Romine back to Triple-A in favor of keeping Stewart on the roster, and the Yankees can probably get a Stewart-type, defense-first catcher on a minor league deal to add depth. The Yankees have made it clear that Francisco Cervelli is going to be back, but it’s noticeable that the Yankees haven’t said the same about Stewart.
• Not my own random thought, but here’s Jorge Posada’s take on free agent Brian McCann: “I like him a lot. There’s concerns with his health last year, but a guy that plays 120 games behind the plate, that’s very durable. He’s been doing it for a while now, being able to catch that much. Being in the American League would help him being able to DH and take him off the legs a little bit. I think he would be a great signing.”
• A lot of understandable attention being directed toward the Yankees potential free agent additions. We’re heard a lot about Robinson Cano, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka this offseason, but two “additions” who could be just as important as any free agent signing are CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Every time I try to look ahead at what the Yankees have and what they need, those two names always stand out. The top of the rotation and the middle of the order are going to hinge heavily on those two becoming impact players again. Teixeira doesn’t have to be an MVP candidate, and Sabathia doesn’t have to be a Cy Young winner, but they need to be productive.
• Andy McCullough mentioned yesterday that the Yankees have shown some interest in left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. Boone Logan isn’t an easy piece to replace. I know he wasn’t the most popular player, but I think that’s usually true of middle relievers (a group that’s prone to significant ups and downs, with the downs being especially costly). But ultimately, he’s been a pretty steady presence for the past four years, giving the Yankees a lefty who’s not totally lost against right-handers. That’s not nothing.
• Young players who will be interesting to watch in spring training: Dellin Betances and Michael Pineda of course, but I also wonder if Jose Ramirez, Adonis Garcia and Chase Whitley could play their way into some sort of roster consideration. Ramirez strikes me as the kind of guy who could break into the big leagues as a reliever — big fastball, a good offspeed pitch — and Whitley is a big guy who’s had Triple-A success and could be a sort of long/short relief hybrid, able to eat innings when necessary, but with the potential to pitch well enough to become a trusted sixth or seventh inning option. As for Garcia, he stands out only because Melky Mesa is gone, Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier are hardly sure things, and Slade Heathcott probably isn’t ready to be pushed into the big leagues. I don’t think Garcia can break camp with the big league team, but I think he could play his way into being a mid-season call-up to play a bench role at some point.
• If the Yankees sign Carlos Beltran, where do you think he would fit in the order? Would he take the No. 2 spot ahead of Cano (assuming Cano is back)? That would leave a string of Beltran, Cano, Teixeira and Soriano, which seems pretty potent, and would potentially move Brett Gardner back to the No. 9 spot so that Jeter could hit leadoff. Similar question with Shin-Soo Choo. He’d have to be the leadoff guy, right? Choo, then Jeter, then Cano? Again, assuming Cano is back.
• Doesn’t every expectation for next year have to begin with, assuming Cano is back? I’m not saying it’s a sure thing, but to begin imagining the scenarios without Cano involves guesswork all over the place. Nearly every position would suddenly become up for grabs, with all sorts of combinations entirely possible. Discussing a Yankees team without Cano isn’t so much about expectations, it’s about possibilities.
• What do you think Alex Rodriguez is doing and thinking at this very moment? Is he thinking that the appeal process is playing out in his favor? Does he think it’s been a complete disaster? Is he listening to handlers who are giving him advice on what to do or say next? Is he stuck in bed recovering from his “flu-like symptoms?” Has he considered calling off the offensive, or possibly turning it up another notch with a new lawsuit or public statement? Is he worried? Is he excited? Is he desperate? Is he satisfied? Does he fully realize or care just how much his uncertain status impacts the Yankees this winter?
Associated Press photos